By Julian Guilarte
William Paterson University alumnus Justin Kauflin will return to his alma mater when he plays the Shea Center for Performing Arts on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.
Kauflin, 28, from Virginia Beach, VA, is an extremely talented jazz artist and has overcome a lot to get to where he is now. It is his love for music that continues to keep him going.
“I’m constantly amazed by the relationship between myself and the audience,” Kaufman said in an interview with Top of the Standard NYC.
“I love that a good relationship and connection between us is essential to an amazing experience for everyone. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I share my music and pray for a connection.”
Kauflin didn’t think jazz would be his career path, but when he was 15 he auditioned for a spot at a performance art high school. There he was encouraged to study jazz piano, according to William Paterson magazine.
Many people influenced Kauflin during his time at WPU, the most notable being jazz legend Clark Terry, who died last year.
Terry said that Kauflin was one of the most gifted students he had ever seen in his long career of teaching.
Their relationship is documented in the award winning documentary “Keep On Keeping On.” The documentary shows the bond Kauflin and Terry formed and the challenges they faced as Terry’s health begins to deteriorate.
Alan Hicks was encouraged to produce the film because Terry was also his mentor. Hicks, an Australian drummer, graduated from WPU with a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies.
Along with gaining recognition from the documentary, Kauflin has won several awards including Jazz Artist of the Year by VEER magazine and the International Young Soloist Award.
Kauflin keeps his hometown close to him, getting headlining gigs at Havana Nights Jazz Club in Virginia Beach.
“We continue to be so proud of all that Justin is accomplishing as his career takes off,” said Dr. David Dempsey, the coordinator of Jazz studies. “This will be a great opportunity for our current students to meet him and for Justin to reconnect with the jazz program where he got his start.”
Kauflin has appeared on the Jazz Room stage several times as a student, but this performance marks his debut as a featured artist for the series, according to a WPU news release.
For more information about Kauflin’s performance, call the Shea Center box office at (973) 720-2371 or visit wp-presents.org.